2011-2012 University Catalog 
2011-2012 University Catalog

About George Mason University


Vision for the New Century


George Mason University will be the university needed by a region and a world driven by new social, economic, and technological realities.

We are in the right place: The nation’s capital region is the epicenter of the world’s political web, its information and communications network, and its new economy.

We are ready: In an age that demands originality and imagination, Mason is among the nation’s most innovative universities.

Mason will

  • Be a magnet for outstanding faculty who will devise new ways to approach problems, invent new ways to teach, and develop new knowledge for the benefit of the region and nation.
  • Attract inventive, industrious students of all ages and cultures, and produce citizens who are intellectually and technologically literate—people who will lead by the force of their ideas.
  • Transform into knowledge and wisdom the vast amounts of information now accessible through new technologies.
  • Build strong alliances that bring the know-how of business and the community into the university and take the knowledge of the university into the workplace and the larger society.
  • Be a center of inquiry, knowledge, and professional expertise in fields with vital implications for human needs and opportunities in the future.
  • Remain innovative, resourceful, and responsive while drawing on the intellectual and cultural heritage of the classical university.

Alan G. Merten
President, George Mason University

Faculty and Students


The university’s more than 1,300 full-time instructional and research faculty members are experts in a broad range of fields. They have published widely, contributed to major research findings, and consulted with government and business officials. Faculty members have received grants and awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Templeton Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and have won Fulbright Scholar grants and Mellon Fellowships.

Of particular interest to undergraduates are the Robinson Professors, outstanding scholars in the liberal arts and sciences who have come to Mason from prestigious positions elsewhere. They are concerned with broad and fundamental intellectual issues and are dedicated to undergraduate teaching. For course offerings by Robinson Professors, please see provost.gmu.edu/robinson/index.html.

The majority of the university’s more than 32,000 students are from Virginia; however, all 50 states and Washington, D.C., as well as 130 countries, are represented in the student body.

While full-time undergraduates, 18 to 24 years in age, make up the largest student group, part-time graduate and undergraduate students account for nearly half of the student population. Mason welcomes qualified students with a wide range of interests and backgrounds.

Distributed University - Regional Campuses


Mason is a distributed university, with regional campuses in Fairfax, Arlington, and Prince William counties, and satellite sites in Loudoun County, Herndon, Reston, and Front Royal. Each Mason campus has a distinctive academic focus that plays a critical role in the economy of its surrounding region. At each campus, students and faculty have access to all the university’s resources, while the duplication of programs and support services is minimized through the use of technology.

Fairfax Campus

Situated on 677 acres of wooded land, the Fairfax Campus offers a wealth of opportunities beyond the numerous academic programs and is the principal center for undergraduate residence and life. The resident student population is expected to grow to more than 5,800 during the next five years as new residential units are constructed.

The George W. Johnson Center, the first building of its kind in the country, fosters university-wide learning by integrating students’ curricular and extracurricular activities and strengthening relationships among university communities.

The Center for the Arts and the Patriot Center offer numerous opportunities to experience the arts, as well as sports and other entertainment. Professional artistic events presented on campus include music and dance from around the world; Theater of the First Amendment, Mason’s professional theater company; and regional, national, and international visual art exhibitions. Free tickets are available to these events for full-time Mason students.

The Aquatic and Fitness Center provides state-of-the-art exercise equipment and competitive and recreational swimming to the university community and outside teams. The 120,000 square foot Recreation and Athletic Complex (formerly the PE Building) boasts three gymnasiums, two racquetball courts, two squash courts, and a two story fitness gallery. Additional equipment and exercise space is also available in Skyline Fitness, adjacent to the residence halls.

Arlington Campus

The Arlington Campus, established in 1979,  is located near Washington, D.C., on 5.2 acres of land. Mason’s most urban location, the Arlington Campus is located in the Virginia Square neighborhood and offers convenient access via Metro and key transportation routes. The Campus has a strong focus on professional and graduate training in law, public policy and conflict analysis and resolution. The Arlington Campus is home to the School of Law (SOL), the School of Public Policy (SPP) and the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (SCAR), as well as programs in social work, nonprofit management, arts management, business administration, and Initiatives in Educational Transformation (IET). The Volgenau School of Engineering (VSE) offers special certification courses in information technology through its TechAdvance Program through the Office of Continuing Professional Education (OCPE). Additional continuing and professional education classes are also available on site. While most of the programs offered on the Arlington Campus are on the graduate and professional levels, some undergraduate courses are available.

The Mercatus Center, the James M. Buchanan Center for Political Economy, and the Institute for Humane Studies—independent initiatives affiliated with the university—can also be found on the Arlington Campus. In addition, the campus houses the Center for Global Studies; Center for Justice, Law, and Society; Critical Infrastructure Protection Program; Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science; and Interdisciplinary Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness.

Arlington’s newest structure, which opened January 2011, is Founders Hall. Founders Hall provides 256,000 square feet of space for academic and student support services. In addition, the building features a 300-seat auditorium, a public plaza, a large multipurpose room, and three levels of underground parking (443 additional parking spaces). These new spaces will enable the university to highlight and showcase much of the exciting work taking place at the Arlington campus - as well as throughout the university - through the hosting of conferences, meetings and other events.  Once complete, the Arlington Campus will include 750,000 square feet of space and many new facilities to accommodate its projected 8,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.

Prince William Campus

The Prince William Campus, established in 1997, resides on 134 acres in Manassas, near the intersection of I-66 and the Prince William Parkway. The campus serves all of Northern Virginia and offers convenient access to the university for citizens of Prince William, Fauquier, and western Fairfax counties; the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park; and adjoining areas to the west and south. The campus comprises six buildings: two research facilities, two academic buildings, a recreation and fitness center and a performing arts center.

Through mutually beneficial partnerships with local government and area businesses, the campus has positioned itself to tap into the unique assets of the surrounding community while providing access to university resources and programs for students and citizens.

A major focus of the campus is research and academic programs in the life sciences, including biodefense and infectious diseases, cancer proteomics, genomics, and bioinformatics. A graduate studies medical education program in the field of personalized medicine is offered beginning fall 2010. Programs in nursing, teacher education, administration of justice, business, information technology, health and fitness, recreation, exercise science, health promotion, parks and outdoor recreation, sport management, therapeutic recreation, tourism and events management, and athletic training also are offered on the campus. Professional certificate programs are available through the Office of Continuing Professional Education.

The university’s Biomedical Research Laboratory (BRL) opened in 2010. This regional biocontainment facility is funded in part by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and houses research on emerging infectious diseases and those caused by biological threat agents.

Campus resources available to all university students, faculty, and staff include a full-service library, a large drop-in computer lab, an information center, University Police, a university bookstore, dining services, student lounge space, a shuttle bus between the Fairfax and Prince William Campuses, and a full complement of student and academic services. In addition, there are numerous opportunities to get involved in campus life through a variety of co-curricular and extracurricular activities. Many campus facilities and services are available to serve university and community needs. The 300-seat Verizon Auditorium boasts innovative audiovisual technologies suitable for presentations, meetings, and ceremonies, along with lobby space for receptions and displays.

The 110,000-square-foot Freedom Aquatic and Fitness Center offers state-of-the-art exercise equipment, group fitness programs, a full gymnasium with elevated track, and recreational and instructional swimming in a 50-meter competition pool, classrooms, and other meeting spaces. It is also home to EDGE, Mason Center for Team and Organizational Learning’s Challenge Course.

Prince William County, the City of Manassas, and Mason, along with the private sector, have joined to create the region’s first state-of-the-art performing arts center. The Hylton Performing Arts Center (HPAC), opened in 2010, provides outstanding professional performances by artists from around the world in world-class venues.  With resources for community arts groups; regional business, civic, and service organizations; county and city school students and teachers; Mason students and faculty, HPAC educates, entertains, and enriches the community. The Governor’s School @ Innovation Park is a collaborative STEM initiative of Manassas City, Manassas Park City and Prince William County public schools with the University and is housed at the Prince William campus.

Mason in Loudoun

Mason in Loudoun aims to connect students and businesses in one of the nation’s fastest-growing areas to one of the commonwealth’s premier universities. The goal of ‘Mason in Loudoun’ is to provide courses that will introduce the area’s workforce and residents to study in a number of exciting areas, while offering current students a local option toward completion of degree program requirements.

Located in leased space at 21641 Ridgetop Circle in Sterling, Virginia, ‘Mason in Loudoun’ offers course work in nursing, health science, education, information technology, and management, along with undergraduate general education courses. The operation will rapidly expand its range of courses as student demand and opportunities suggest. Students enrolled in Loudoun enjoy the same rights, privileges, and access as those on Mason’s Fairfax, Arlington, and Prince William Campuses.

Satellite Sites

The Office of Continuing Professional Education’s Herndon Training Center, located off the Dulles Toll Road and Route 28 at the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT), provides a wide range of yearly open-enrollment seminars and workshops in its meeting facilities. CIT classrooms are fully electronic and include a groupware platform. The School of Management’s Executive MBA Program and the Volgenau School of Engineering’s TechAdvance Program are located here.

In partnership with the Smithsonian Institution, the University offers a semester long resident program at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) in Front Royal, Virginia. Students live on site at one of the most significant conservation facilities in the world and work with prominent research scientists, educators, and conservation practitioners in a unique learning community. This experience provides unparalleled access to the leading edge of conservation in practice. It is truly a unique “gateway to conservation” for the intrigued undergraduate student.

George Mason, the Man


When George Mason (1725–92) wrote the Virginia Declaration of Rights in 1776, he gave America the noble concept that the rights of the individual must be protected against the power of government. By placing in Virginia’s first constitution a list of rights that could never be taken away from citizens, George Mason sought to ensure a society in which government could not become all-powerful.

As a result of his influence, the first 10 amendments, which we know as the Bill of Rights, were added to the U.S. Constitution. The universal significance of this action made the American Revolution much more than a war for independence from Great Britain; it enshrined in our most important public document the principle that a government must always respect the rights of the people.

George Mason, a slave owner, did not recognize that those rights extended to slaves. Nevertheless, his words were later used to demonstrate that slavery could not exist in a country that proclaimed its belief in human rights. While we as a country have not always adhered to George Mason’s great ideas, they remain the measure of the best in our national life.

University History


The university’s growing reputation as an innovative educational leader is rooted in Virginia’s strong educational tradition. By emphasizing high technology, public policy, and the fine and performing arts, Mason has created a curriculum and mission to meet the needs of Northern Virginia’s extraordinary cosmopolitan constituency.

The idea for George Mason University was born in 1949 when the Northern Virginia University Center, essentially an adult-education extension of the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, opened under the direction of John Norville Gibson Finley. In 1955 and again in 1956, the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia and Virginia legislature authorized the establishment of a two-year branch college to serve Northern Virginia.

The university’s formal history began in 1957 as University College, the Northern Virginia branch of the University of Virginia, offering courses in engineering and the liberal arts. It opened in a renovated elementary school in the Bailey’s Crossroads area with an enrollment of 17 students.

Eager to support the fledgling institution, the Town (now City) of Fairfax purchased 150 acres in 1958 and donated the land to the University of Virginia for a permanent branch campus. The following year, the University of Virginia Board of Visitors selected the name George Mason College. Construction of the campus’ first four buildings was completed in 1964. In September of that year, 356 students began their studies in the new classrooms.

In March 1966, the General Assembly authorized the expansion of George Mason College into a four-year, degree-granting institution and gave it the long-range mandate to expand into a major regional university. The first senior class received degrees in June 1968. Graduate programs began in September 1970, with the first master’s degrees conferred in June 1971. The George Mason College Board of Control, supported by citizens of the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church, and Arlington and Fairfax counties, acquired an additional 422 acres. By the end of 1970, the college’s Fairfax Campus reached 572 acres; it is now 677 acres.

In 1972, the Board of Visitors of the University of Virginia recommended that the college separate from its parent institution. On April 7 of that year, the governor signed the General Assembly legislation that established George Mason University as an independent member of Virginia’s system of colleges and universities.

Since 1972, the university’s development has been marked by rapid growth and innovative planning. In 39 years, enrollment has risen from 4,166 to more than 32,000 students. In 1979, Mason was given the authority to grant doctoral degrees and began offering programs at this level. In the same year, the university acquired what became George Mason University School of Law, located on the Arlington Campus.

In 1984, the first Robinson Professors, a group of outstanding scholars committed to undergraduate teaching and interdisciplinary scholarship, joined the faculty as the result of a generous bequest from the estate of Clarence J. Robinson.

Drawing prominent scholars from all fields, Mason’s outstanding faculty includes Pulitzer Prize winners, Nobel laureates, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Centennial Medalists, and recipients of numerous Fulbright, National Science Foundation, and National Endowment for the Arts grants and awards, among others. More than 30 endowed chairs at the university have also brought many internationally renowned artists and scholars to campus.

In 1985, Mason partnered with area businesses to develop an engineering program geared toward the emerging information technology field and started what is now the Volgenau School of Engineering. With the Volgenau School, Mason was the first institution in the country to offer a doctoral degree in information technology.

The establishment in 1990 of the Institute of the Arts, which became the College of Visual and Performing Arts in 2001, solidified the university’s commitment to make the arts an integral part of students’ lives. The Center for the Arts and the arts complex, which includes art galleries, studio and rehearsal space, and performing venues such as Harris Theatre and TheaterSpace, are all components of the college.

On the Fairfax Campus, the innovative George W. Johnson Center was dedicated in April 1996. By combining student life resources with educational support facilities such as an interactive library, Mason created the learning workspace of the future. Educational administrators from around the world have toured the center. 

The university’s facilities continue to grow. In 2006, the university opened its first facility dedicated to research, - Research I, which contains an observatory and laboratories for a number of campus research centers. In 2009 the university opened the Long and Kimmy Nguyen Engineering Building, which is now the largest academic building on campus. In addition to being the university’s first LEED-certified building on the Fairfax Campus, the Nguyen Engineering Building is also the first in Virginia’s public university system to offer corporate lease space. Also opening in 2009 was the Art and Design Building, which is now home to the School of Art.

Masonvale, a townhome community on campus that provides transitional housing for faculty and staff, opened in late 2009. The Hylton Performing Arts Center on the Prince William Campus celebrated its grand opening in May 2010 and the Mason Inn Conference Center and Hotel opened in summer 2010 on the Fairfax campus. On the Arlington campus, Founder’s Hall was ready for occupation by the School of Public Policy and other units in early 2011.

The university has achieved national distinction in many areas. Its reputation continues to grow as Mason provides educational, cultural, and economic resources for the people of Virginia, the nation, and the world.

University’s Mission


George Mason University is innovative and entrepreneurial in spirit and uses its multi-campus organization and location near our nation’s capital to attract outstanding faculty, staff, and students. George Mason will:

Educate the new generation of leaders for the 21st centurymen and women capable of shaping a global community with vision, justice, and clarity.

Encourage freedom of thought, speech, and inquiry in a tolerant, respectful academic setting that values diversity.

Provide innovative and interdisciplinary undergraduate, graduate, and professional courses of study that enable students to exercise analytical and imaginative thinking and make well-founded ethical decisions.

Nurture and support a highly qualified and entrepreneurial faculty that is excellent at teaching, active in pure and applied research, capable of providing a broad range of intellectual and cultural insights, and is responsive to the needs of students and their communities.

Maintain an international reputation for superior education and public service that affirms its role as the intellectual and cultural nexus among Northern Virginia, the nation, and the world.



George Mason University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of George Mason University. 

Individual programs or units may also be accredited by discipline-specific agencies.

The university is a member of the Council of Graduate Schools in the United States.

George Mason University Foundation


Established in 1966, the George Mason University Foundation Inc. works to advance the aims and purposes of the university. It is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation organized and operated exclusively for the benefit of the university.

The foundation assists Mason in generating private support and manages, invests, and administers private gifts, including endowment and real property. The foundation is governed by a volunteer Board of Trustees that is led by a chair. The foundation president and chief financial officer report to the Executive Committee of the Foundation Board and work with the vice president of development and alumni affairs to support the private resource needs of the university.